Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree River

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April 8th 2012
Published: May 13th 2012
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Today we took the Falcon X6 for a drive up the coast to Cape Tribulation. On our way up the coast we stopped at Mossman Gorge. There were quite a few people there to swim in the river, but when we headed off on the 2.4km rainforest loop we had it almost to ourselves! The strangler figs in this part of the rainforest were quite impressive with a couple of particularly large specimens.

From the gorge we continued on to the Daintree River and made the ferry crossing to continue up as far as we could drive without a four wheel drive vehicle. We stopped at the Daintree Discovery Centre cafe for a quick bite to eat before driving the rest of the way up the coast. We opted not to go into the discovery centre because we didn't have enough time to get our 28 dollar's worth!!

After our quick stop for lunch we drove straight through to Cape Trib. We needed to get there so that we knew how long we had to get back for our Daintree River Cruise at 4.00pm. By the time we arrived at the furthest point north that you can reach without a 4x4 we really only had time for a couple of photos of the cape before commencing our return journey.

When we walked out to the beach through the mangroves we didn't see any estuarine crocodiles, but we did see a lace monitor catch a really big bug (dragonfly?) and eat it. We never would have seen it if it hadn't launched itself at its lunch. I saw the movement out of the corner of my eye and after a moment of panic ascertained that it was only a lace monitor - not a croc!! Phew.

On our way back down the coast the only stop that we had was for ice-cream at the Daintree Ice-cream Company. Because they were so busy with tour groups coming through they had cups of ice-cream already made up - you couldn't choose what flavour you wanted. Fortunately Bernie agreed to swap his black sapote ice-cream for my scoop of banana ice-cream. On the whole their flavours were a bit too gourmet for me - I'd rather have plain old vanilla every time!!

Back at the river we joined a queue of cars a couple of hundred metres long waiting to cross back over the Daintree River. We were a bit worried about whether we would make the next ferry as time was ticking away towards 4.00pm. Fortunately, the ferry has three lanes of cars that easily accommodated all the cars ahead of us and us. I didn't look to see if we left anyone behind on that crossing. By nearly 4.00pm in the afternoon I guess that most traffic is heading south across the river.

Back to the Daintree Village turn-off and then on to the village itself with time running out and not quite sure where we were to meet Ian Worcester. After one false stop at a rival tour company, we found our way to the boat ramp in Daintree Village where Ian was waiting for us in his little boat. I think we stepped aboard right on 4.00pm. Just made it!!

We opted to take the tour with Ian because he is a small operator in a small, uncovered boat who can take you into reaches that other tour boats can't negotiate. Ian is also keen to find some of the river's birdlife for you to photograph. We headed upriver first and nosed into a small wash where there were lots of small, rust chested birds. After taking a few photos of those we went back out onto the river where were saw some eagles and kites flying overhead having what appeared to be a territorial dispute.

A bit further upriver we turned into another wash where we saw some cattle egrets under the feet of some cattle on the bank and a spoonbill in a tree. After we had watched the spoonbill for a while it was joined by a cormorant drying its wings.

Next we motored downstream and into Barratt Creek looking for the Azure Kingfisher. We went as far as Ian's boat could take us up the creek without seeing a thing - no birds and no crocodiles. Back at the entrance to the creek Ian spotted an Azure Kingfisher that sat and sat and sat very obligingly on a branch while we took photos. After we had taken dozens of photos, it dove into the water as quick as a flash and flew off with its dinner. We didn't get that 'shot'. Ian says he has been trying for a photo of an Azure Kingfisher hitting the water for years and he still hasn't got one!

Back out in the river we saw another, smaller kingfisher, but they were too quick and too far away to photograph. We also saw some minute birds that were only as big as 50 cent pieces. They really were too small, too quick and too far away to photograph.

Next Ian took us into Humbug Reach where we saw a Jabirru catch an eel for its dinner. As far as we can tell it doesn't like to eat its dinner alive because it spent some time pecking away at the eel and seeming to check from time to time if it was still alive. Eventually, after a lot of preparation, it maneuvered it into position in its beak and gulped it down.

We ventured a bit further along Humbug Reach in search of a crocodile before turning around for the trip back to the boat ramp in the near dark. Near where we had seen the Jabirru, Ian pointed out the Egret colony where all the local cattle egrets come to roost each evening. There were already hundreds of birds there and Ian said that we would encounter hundreds more returning to the colony along the river in the twilight.

We had expected our river cruise to go for about two hours, but it was nearly 7.00pm when we arrived back at the boat ramp. Even though we spent an extra hour on the river, Ian was going to discount the price - presumably because he didn't find a croc for us?? Anyway, we were more than happy with all of the bird life we had seen so Bernie insisted on paying him the quoted price. Sometimes it's nice to support a small operator rather than one of the big commercial companies.

After our river cruise we had to drive back down the coast in the dark. Arriving back in Palm Cove after eight o'clock at night we thought that we had best head straight out for some dinner. There was a cafe down on the beach front that we thought that we would try, but when we walked in, there was a couple seated on the deck out the front telling us covertly 'No, don't do it, it's awful' so we turned around and went back to the pub which is right next door to our apartment. The pub was having some sort of a crisis and after we had waited 10 minutes in the queue to place our orders - without a single order being taken - we left there too!!

Back around on the beach front we finally went into the more up-market restaurant that we had sort of been saving for our anniversary dinner. We had to wait a few minutes for a table to be cleared, but then enjoyed another lovely al fresco meal listening to the waves on the shoreline and looking at the moon rising through the palm trees. Does it get any better than that?

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